Group turns nerdiness into theater in ‘The Best of Craigslist’

June 18, 2013

With 50 or so small, producing theater companies in the Washington area, you’d think we’d have all the dramatic niches covered. There are companies that explore Eastern European movement theater, Italian Commedia dell’arte and a bloody French spectacle called Grand Guignol. Then there are the troupes devoted to plays by women, Irish plays and new plays. But there is always room for more, as proven by a newish little troupe called Flying V.

Just as government IDs are lost without a lanyard, these young performers would like to be your connection for nerd theater.

Yes, calling all Trekkies, joystick addicts and people who lined up in costume to see “Man of Steel” Friday, Flying V has a show for you. They call it “The Best of Craigslist” because — let’s face it — it’s getting harder to find someone to role-play with on MySpace these days. In fact, the idea of basing an entire theatrical work on Web classifieds may seem behind the zeitgeist; composer/songwriter Gabriel Kahane wrote his “Craigslistlieder” way back in 2006, when scoring a free Ikea futon was still an Internet miracle.

There are no futons for sale, or for free, in “The Best of Craigslist.” The dozen or so actors, directors and designers who collaborated on this show stuck closely to sex, social awkwardness and superheroes.

The show opens with each performer singing about a missed connection; it’s too bad only four of the six cast members can sing. The women — Britt Duff, Katie Nigsch-Fairfax and Megan Westman — have three great sets of pipes and two decent ukuleles (the must-have accessory of this theater season). But all six performers can act, and they aren’t the least bit self-conscious as they portray a series of sad-sack social outcasts.


Screenshot of the Craigslist app on the iPhone (Michelle Williams/Screenshot of the Craigslist app)

“Yoga mat for sale. Used once,” begins Nick Hagy, launching into a story about a guy who once tried attending a lunch-hour yoga class to the horror of the cute blonde doing downward dog next to him. Hagy, a scruffy, heavy-set fellow, narrates as the entire cast reenacts that class. He’s the creepy guy in the back trying to pick up women with lines like, “Do I have a sweat mustache?” As a character, he’s clueless, but as an actor, Hagy is a crackerjack physical comedian. The sketch goes on a bit longer than necessary, but he won applause for crawling offstage after creating the illusion of a hot mess.

The funniest sketch — by many decibels of laughter — found Eugene Fertelmeyster and Westman curled together under a duvet at stage left. In an open forum letter to their noisy upstairs neighbors, Fertelmeyster’s character declares a sex war. The more positions they try, the louder they get, all while banging a broom against the wall. As they thrust away, at least two other cast members are backstage moaning, creating the impression that “the entire cast of a Cirque du Soleil show is upstairs having an orgy.”

The actors in this show support each other remarkably well, in bed or otherwise. The women share several memorable scenes, including one where they each attempt to lure lovers while dressed as a “Game of Thrones” damsel in distress, a woman looking to lose her “Star Wars” virginity and a Super Mario freak seeking someone to come insert a connector into her software.

They also turn the nerd tables, particularly in a fantastic trio with the belted refrain, “My boyfriend has been cheating on me with his Nintendo 64.” (They should scrap the cheesy, box-step choreography but keep the on-pitch harmonies.)

After the want ad for a dragon slayer, answered by Duff dressed as an elf and a three-man, winged puppet, the tone turns more sober. There’s an extraneous piano ballad and a number where Duff’s ukulele-girl routine gets too emo.

At 95 minutes with no intermission, “The Best of Craigslist” could stand to delete a few posts.

The company’s last effort, “The Pirate Laureate of Port Town,” was also a bit long for anyone who doesn’t think every day should be Talk Like a Pirate Day. But if Flying V’s goal is to create theater about “genre fiction, comic books and other modern mythologies,” then they’ve certainly succeeded. No one at “The Best of Craigslist” laughed harder than the guy wearing the Superman T-shirt. Those of us who came dressed to work at the Daily Planet had a good time, too.

Ritzel is a freelance writer.

The Best of Craigslist

Conceived by Edward Daniels. Directed by Jason Schlafstein. Lighting design, Kristin A. Thompson; properties, Andrea “Dre” Moore; sound, Neil McFadden; costumes,Denise Umland. Presented through June 30 by Flying V at the Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh St., Bethesda. Visit www.flyingvtheatre.com.

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